Uptown Update got a personal tour with a Mariano's representative (a former Uptown resident), who pointed out some of the features of the new store. At 55,000 square feet, it's not as large as the monster 80,000sf store at Lawrence and Ravenswood, which we've been avoiding in order to judge the Uptown/Edgewater store on its own merits. It may not be the biggest, but this Mariano's pretty much knocked our socks off.
From the outside, it looks very much like Dominick's did. But big changes lie within. 400 new employees and services that we haven't seen in any grocery store before. Customers were lined up at kiosks to validate their value cards, which work on the "punch system" -- for example, buy ten of a certain item, get the next one free.
When you enter the store from the Foster/Sheridan corner, you'll find yourself in the specialty food station area, perfect for people who want to grab a bite to go or eat inside at one of several cafe seating areas (with in-store wi-fi). Much of the food prep takes place on the spot and right in front of customers (click all photos for larger versions):
|Vero coffee and baked goods/breakfast items.|
|Squeez'd smoothie bar, with changing "Juice of the Day" selections. We sampled|
the kale smoothie, which (frankly) we expected to be nasty, but it was delicious!
Calorie and nutritional values are on display for each drink.
|The gelato bar, with samples available for the asking. We had coconut,|
and yes, that is Ferrero Rocher flavor you see. (Heaven.)
|Buy a burger, seafood, or anything from the meat department, and the grill station|
will prepare it right in front of you for no additional charge. According to
our guide, Mariano's is known for its pub burgers and sausage.
|Create your own salad at the huge salad bar|
(there are also an olive bar and a soup bar).
|Sushi chefs create rolls right in front of you, and on request.|
|Two different styles of pizza, meals to go, and sandwiches made to order.|
|A huge selection of cheeses from around the world. The counter|
wraps around and goes all the way to the wall.
|Watch the cupcakes get decorated in the bakery, or buy one to go for just $2.25.|
|Cookies! We particularly liked the shoe-shaped iced cookies.|
|Bread of all kinds, and you can buy it by the slice if you'd like.|
|At the front of the food specialty area, there are mini-checkout stands,|
designed to help help people getting meals or snacks out the door quickly,
so they don't have to spend their lunch hour waiting in line
|Remember the meeting regarding the liquor moratorium, and the|
unanimous vote to lift it for this area? This is what it got customers:
a huge selection of craft beers, and a "build your own six-pack" option.
Mix and match 6 bottles for $9. (No bottles are sold individually.)
|An absolutely huge wine section, as well as personal picks from|
Mariano's wine experts. There's also a large spirits section.
|An in-store nutritionist, Peggy Balboa, will hold seminars about health, particularly as|
it relates to eating. Check the stores Events page for these and other special events.
There were free cholesterol and glucose screenings Tuesday, with the glucose screenings
being held on a daily basis. Peggy will also do nutritional counseling. There is a
$4 prescription club for common generic drugs, similar to Walmart's plan.
|Two walls of organic produce, as well as filling a freestanding case.|
|A taffy apple and popcorn stand. Get your fresh Chicago Mix right here!|
You can also get taffy apples of all descriptions, after watching them
get dipped and coated on the spot.
|Fresh herbs, eleven different kinds.|
|Got a hankering for exotic produce, like sugar cane, dragon fruit, |
aloe vera leaves, or several varieties of papayas? Get 'em here.
|The floral department has beautiful arrangements of succulents,|
an option to build your own floral bouquet stem by stem, and ....
|.... if you've ever wanted roses with five-foot-tall stems, now you can get them.|
|The piano player will serenade customers on busy days, directly from the card and gift section.|
|There are foods from 20 different countries in the international aisle.|
Where better than Uptown with our diverse population?